3D modeling software

Learn about 3D modeling software available from Autodesk for beginners, professionals, and everyone in between.

Image of a 3D rendering of a manipulator arm for an ROV (Remotely operated vehicle).

What is 3D modeling?

3D modeling is a computer graphics process of creating a mathematical representation of a 3D object or shape using specialized software. The digital rendering of the physical object is called a 3D model and various industries use them.

Industries including architecture, construction, product development, science, medicine, film, television, and video games use 3D modeling apps and software to visualize, simulate, and render graphic designs.

A 3D artist works on two computer screens, developing components for a performance auto specialist, BBI Autosport.

How does 3D modeling work?

3D modeling starts with an artist generating a 3D primitive using numerous polygons such as a cube, cylinder, plane, or sphere. Then, the artist uses 3D modeling programs & tools to develop and refine the design into its new desired form. The 3D modeling workflow involves adding points in the 3D modeled space called vertices and adjusting their placement to manipulate the object’s shape by subdividing the polygons to create a new 3D object.

3D model of a wireframe house.

What are the different types of 3D modeling?

There are four basic types of 3D modeling: wireframe, surface, solid, and 3D sculpting (or polygonal) modeling. Wireframe modeling shows only the skeletal framework of an object or character using edges and vertices. By contrast, surface modeling uses a polygonal mesh to show a 3D model’s surface texture, shading, and color. Solid modeling goes beyond the surface and ultimately represents both the exterior and interior of the 3D-modeled object. Finally, 3D sculpting, or polygonal modeling, finishes the polygonal mesh of a 3D model with complex details and textures.

What is 3D modeling software used for?

3D models are used across a wide range of industries.

3D modeling for film & TV

3D modeling for film & TV

VFX and animation studios use 3D modeling software to create CGI assets and characters for films and TV shows.


3D modeling for game development

3D modeling for game development

Game developers create 3D environments and characters for games and cinematics using 3D modeling tools.


3D modeling for product design

3D modeling for product design

The manufacturing industry uses 3D modeling software for product design, engineering, and concept rendering.


3D modeling for architecture

3D modeling for architecture

The architecture industry uses 3D modeling apps and software to render the interiors and exteriors of proposed buildings and environments.


Benefits of 3D modeling software

Discover some of the top benefits of 3D modeling software from Autodesk.

Design efficiency

With 3D modeling software, designers don’t need several rounds of evaluating physical prototypes. Instead, they can quickly adjust designs with user-friendly software.


Accurate visualization

Compared to 2D drawings, 3D modeling software designs can display the finest details from any angle, making evaluation faster and easier.


Simulation and testing

A large battery of 3D modeling software simulations can test for product malfunctions and safety under harsh conditions or for the movements and responses of 3D characters and objects.


3D modeling software features

Discover the top 3D modeling tools and features available with Autodesk software.

Material and texture mapping

Material and texture mapping

These techniques add realistic detail like color, topography, reflectivity, patterns, and wear to 3D objects and 3D scenes.


Animation and rigging

Animation and rigging

Rigging artists give 3D models a skeletal framework, which animators use to create the realistic movement of 3D animation.


Image courtesy of Maga Animation Studio

Lighting tools

Lighting tools

Autodesk’s Arnold software achieves photorealistic lighting through its proprietary lighting setups and works with standard Maya lights.




In this final step of animation, 3D rendering software generates finished images of the 3D models with effects like shading, reflections, and motion blurs.


Software for 3D modeling

3D modeling, animation, and rendering software for games and design visualization

3D animation, modeling, simulation, and rendering software for film, games, and TV

Global illumination rendering software

Examples of 3D modeling software in use

Tetra Tech 3D modeling in engineering


3D modeling in engineering

With Autodesk Civil 3D and Revit for 3D modeling, this firm delivered a water treatment plant ahead of schedule and under budget.


Image courtesy of Tetra Tech

Ready at Dawn 3D modeling for gaming


3D modeling for gaming

For work on major console and VR titles, Ready at Dawn developed its own Maya add-on tools for 2D and 3D modeling, scripting, and visual effects.


Image courtesy of Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC

Ganas Manufacturing 3D Modeling for Product Design


3D modeling for product design

This custom millwork and woodworking shop turned to the cost efficiency of Fusion 360 for 2D CAD, 3D modeling, CAM tools, and CNC programming.


Image courtesy of GANAS MFG

3D modeling for film & TV showcase


3D modeling for film & TV showcase

See how global 3D houses working in film, TV, gaming, and VFX achieve captivating results using Autodesk 3D modeling tools.


Image courtesy of Chocolate Tribe

Free 3D modeling software resources

Jumpstart your CAD skills and work toward certification by learning the fundamental workflows of Fusion 360 3D modeling software for design and manufacturing.


Get started with Revit 3D modeling software for architecture and learn to create and edit walls, doors, windows, roofs, stairs, and other elements and core modeling concepts.


Work toward certification for Inventor 3D modeling software with this professional course, which teaches skills in assembly modeling, mechanical motion, technical production drawings, and Inventor animations.


Access thousands of 3D assets for Maya and other 3D modeling software, including textures, models, landscapes, and more from Creative Market.


Learn 3D design, electronics, and coding with Tinkercad, the free web app with an enormous user community and hands-on projects available for any skill level.


Join Autodesk’s AREA 3D community to read user stories, share your work, and learn new skills with breakdowns and tutorials on 3D modeling software.


3D modeling software FAQs

Learn more about 3D modeling software with these top questions frequently asked by users.

What is the best 3D modeling software for beginners?

The best 3D modeling software for beginners should be free, easy to use, and highly accessible so as many people as possible can try their hand at a skill that is in demand, fun, and empowering.


For 3D design and learning associated electronics circuits and code, Tinkercad checks all the boxes for beginner-friendliness. It is available as a free web app (or iPad app). With its intuitive interface and quick tutorials, beginners can get up and running with 3D modeling in minutes.

Can I use 3D modeling software for animation?

Yes, 3D modeling software is essential for making 3D animation, and creators of any skill level can use it to create characters and CG assets for content ranging from short-form videos to games and feature films.


A full 3D animation software collection includes applications for every stage of the animation pipeline, including 3D modeling, motion capture, VFX, and 3D rendering.

What is 3D sculpting?

3D sculpting is one of the final stages of 3D modeling in the media and entertainment industry, where 3D artists use digital sculpting and painting tools to add an impressive level of detail and texture to the polygons of 3D models. This technique is also referred to as polygonal modeling.


Using specialized software like Mudbox, 3D-sculpting artists bring characters and environments to life by adding complexity to their shapes and structures using a layer-based workflow.

Does Autodesk have any 3D modeling apps for mobile devices?

Autodesk makes it easy to develop 3D modeling projects on your mobile device with 3D modeling apps. You can share, view, and comment on 2D and 3D DWG, DWF, Navisworks, and Revit software files. You can also review 3D models and animation in multiple formats and even create digital designs ready for 3D printing.

Is Fusion 360 still free for 3D modeling hobbyists?

Autodesk offers its Fusion 360 3D-modeling program free to qualifying startups, hobbyists, and makers through a simple three-step verification process.

How can Autodesk software help speed up 3D modeling workflows?

Built-in 3D modeling and sculpting tools in 3ds Max allow you to model 3D characters, environments, and elements quickly. Its efficient and flexible modeling toolset lets you automate your workflow so you can focus on producing high-quality renders in less time.

What collaboration features are included in Autodesk 3D modeling software?

Autodesk 3D-modeling software is designed to allow secure collaboration on 3D files in one location with easy design review in a web browser. You can maintain an associative link to non-native CAD data and convert configurable 3D models into BIM objects.

Where can I find learning content for 3D modeling software?

Watch free tutorials on 3D modeling on our Maya and 3ds Max Learning Channels. These YouTube channels have video tutorials for beginners to the most advanced users.

Why choose 3ds Max or Maya for 3D modeling?

3ds Max and Maya are both used by creative studios worldwide for 3D modeling, animation, visual effects, and rendering. 3ds Max offers a robust toolset for modeling, intuitive texturing and shading, and high-quality rendering, while Maya provides powerful tools for character creation, lifelike animation, and detailed simulations.

Read more about the differences between 3ds Max and Maya.

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